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Nelson-Atkins celebrates Chinese New Year

Photo by  Kevin Bryce
Yo-yo performer at the Nelson-Atkin Museum of Art’s annual Chinese New Year celebration.

The Year of the Rabbit occurs once every 12 years according to the Chinese lunar calendar, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was there to celebrate its dawn with the Rabbits this past Friday, Jan. 28.

The annual Chinese New Year celebration brought forth hundreds of people from the community, including observers of traditional Chinese culture and curious spectators alike.

The ceilings of the halls in the gallery were adorned with red Chinese lanterns and banners with pictures of rabbits.

Food from Bo Ling’s was available and guides were on hand to assist people through the Chinese art galleries.

The array of events offered was impressive. As Jason Chen, an Avila University student, said early into the event, “So far, so good.”

Students from The Chinese School of Greater Kansas City gave a performance featuring Chinese yo-yos in the museum lobby. Chinese yo-yos are barbell shaped objects that are kept spinning on a string tied to two sticks. The students performed many tricks with their yo-yos in a routine set to the song “Animal” by Neon Trees.

Although their performance lacked polish, the audience seemed dubiously awed and gave them much-needed applause.

The true yo-yo master, however, seemed to be their coach who has been dubbed the “Yo-Yo Prince.” He dazzled the audience by swirling multiple light-up yo-yos around his head with a high level of velocity. Yet his performance had technical errors as well: at one point a yo-yo was sent flying into the audience, causing a mild panic.

Overall, the students from the school seemed satisfied and helped teach some yo-yo tricks to interested attendees after their performance was over.

A teacher from the school, UMKC Psychology professor Chia-Chih Wang, gave his input on how the Chinese School helps the students achieve success.

“All of those cultural activities [they learn] help them to gain a new skill,” Wang said. “Once they master that skill it increases their confidence.”

At the event , there were also musicians from the Kansas City Chinese Ensemble, who played a medley of traditional songs using instruments such as the dulcimer and the Zheng, or table harp.

The audience seemed so captivated by their performance, they took videos using their cell phones.

Kevin Chin, a bassist for the ensemble, described the significance of music in the celebration of the Chinese New Year, “The tunes we play are all folk music…Especially during the traditional Chinese festivals we play that kind of music, and everybody really enjoys it.”

The Chinese New Year is a time of good fortune and joy, and those in attendance seemed to appreciate its cultural significance.

“The Chinese New Year is like what Thanksgiving is for the American people. It’s a family reunion,” said Hui Chen, a Kansas City resident who came with her husband and children. “We don’t have family here… so it’s very meaningful [to] us.”

If you’re interested in experiencing this event, check out to see a video of the event.

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